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The Future of Architecture? (I Sincerely Hope Not)

January 3, 2015 6 comments

I’ve just read this piece in today’s Guardian and to say it fills me with horror at the start of a new year is something of an understatement… The reason for the article is a proposal for a new housing development near Hyde Park by the father and son architectural practice of Quinlan and Francis Terry, and believe it or not, the proposal looks like this…. d650d1f4-2394-41bd-b5da-5dcd2a221e3c-2060x1236 The article suggests that the scheme takes inspiration from the long, 19th Century mansion blocks that form much of Hausmann’s celebrated plan for Paris. Haussmann_Paris But look again and you’ll see that the simplicity, rigor, and control of a typical Hausmann block has been lost to the overcomplicated and confused self aggrandisement of a Loire Valley Chateau, and has nothing at all to do with housing people in contemporary London, and everything to do with overseas marketing… Chateaus Loire Valley And whilst I understand the arguments for so called “groundscraper” proposals like this: over development in the number and quality of tall buildings currently going up across London, their representation of faceless, corporate, developer greed and the destruction of the city’s historic urban grain, being three that are usually trotted out, I am at a total loss to understand how copying a 170 year old building type from another country will address any of these issues…

To me the key point is when the article refers to the Richard Rogers proposals at Chelsea Barracks, and the intervention directly to the site’s owners by Prince Charles, a move that resulted in the expensive scrapping of a well considered, contemporary and recommended for approval scheme, and the creation of a worryingly conservative approach by wealthy, predominantly overseas developers and investors that view Royal approval with greater importance than Statutory approval…

And think on how this building might look and be constructed should (god forbid) it ever got the go ahead.. It’s common knowledge that the specialist materials, skills and techniques required to construct this type of edifice either no longer exist or do so at such a high price, that the finished building will either be so pared down as to look nothing like the original drawings (think Richmond Riverside) or be so expensive once finished, that the properties will only be affordable to ever more super wealthy owners, totally defeating the point in my view, of building more new homes…. It’s still developer greed, just cloaked in a different (Frock) coat…

I don’t object in an unthinking, knee jerk reaction way to the work of the Terry family practice (their recently completed block on Tottenham Court Road (below) for example, works remarkably well), but I do object to proposals that are in every sense out of time, out of scale, over the top and to my eyes at least, ugly and totally misjudged…

terry2 I really do not enjoy writing “Things I DON’T like..” posts (especially the first one of the year) but I’m more than prepared to nail my colours to the mast and state categorically that I believe that anachronistic, derivative and wholly inappropriate proposals such as this for the prestigious Hyde Park Barracks site, should not be given any credence whatsoever, except perhaps to be held up for ridicule and as a prime example of what NOT to do…

And don’t get me started on what is proposed for demolition to make way for this abomination.. only the wonderful 1970’s Barracks buildings by Britain’s greatest architect, Sir Basil Spence.

I’m so upset by this act of wanton vandalism that I can’t write anything further at this moment in time, but I will revisit this, have not doubt. In the meantime why not remind yourself how Sir Basil described his proposals by watching this short video… especially when he describes as “ludicrous”, the idea that living near the park is like living in the country… the man’s face is an absolute picture…

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Martin Creed @ The Haywood, South Bank

May 6, 2014 Leave a comment

Martin-Creed-at-the-Haywa-012Warning: this is a Things I DON’T Like post, and contains negative vibes. Read only if you’re in a positive frame of mind and open to some unbridled (but honest) criticism…

As Southbank members (i.e. it was free to get in) and on what was the last day of the exhibition, extended to take in the bank holiday weekend, we popped in yesterday to the Martin Creed exhibition, to see what all the fuss was about…

In summary, we wasted 20 precious minutes looking at what is by some considerable margin, the most disappointing, dispiriting and depressingly thin pile of kaka I’ve ever had the misfortune to experience, desperately trying to find at least one thing that had any merit, one thing that made us stop and think, “yeah, that was worth coming for, I like that…”

Nothing, not a thing. Just pile after pile of derivative rubbish… Not an original piece in the whole show. Anyone with an ounce of art history could point to any of this stuff and tell you exactly where Creed took his “inspiration” from. Even this promo shot “borrows” someone else’s iconography (step forward Rene Magritte).

When they come to clear it up over the next few weeks, I can only hope that it will all just be skipped, save anyone else having to waste time on it, as landfill is surely what it constitutes…

It winds me up no end that an artist whose entire oeuvre consists of two, generally poorly executed ideas i.e repetition and scale, can merit a full on retrospective at the Hayward Gallery. Maybe it’s me, but I really just don’t get it. I know art (good and bad) should fire the senses and illicit emotions and opinion, and this surely does, but leaving an exhibition of such banality, angry at the obvious (and possibly deliberate, which makes it worse) crassness of it all, can never be a good thing, can it?

What’s the Point of It? Mr Creed asks through a sneer of postmodern irony. Absolutely none whatsoever I reply, except to say thank f*ck we didn’t pay £11 to see it…

 

Secret Cinema : G.O.O.D = S.H.*.T

May 12, 2013 84 comments

G.O.O.D_1We went to Secret Cinema last night and despite some early misgivings about the whole event, it turned out to be far more disappointing than I ever feared it might be.

Secret Cinema is like Fight Club; you’re not supposed to tell anyone about it, but in light of the fact that we did everything we were asked to, fulfilling our side of the bargain, as you will see if you read on, I think the organisers fell well short of what could be reasonably expected of them.

Hence any perceived “contract” is null and void, and hence me feeling free to tell you all about it. So click away now if you don’t want spoilers…

The experience all started off intriguingly enough, as over the course of the week leading up to the event, we had to enroll online into a company called G.O.O.D, answer questionnaires to generate our security levels and the Departments to which we would be assigned. We had to dress appropriate to our new stations, print out business cards and bring specific items with us such as newspapers, marigold gloves and brief cases…

Also on the plus side, the organisers had obviously put a lot of effort into it: the disused office building in West Croydon was decked out over six or seven floors to resemble various scenes and aspects from the secret film, which was…  Terry Gilliam’s wonderful Brazil, which I must admit I was well chuffed about, as I’ve always been a huge fan.

The recreation of the office floor in which Sam Lowry worked with Mr. Kurtzman’s office tucked away at the back was particularly well done, whilst the restaurant with the string quartet and box like illuminated, numeric menus was also pretty impressive.

G.O.O.D_Transfer Notice JoeSo the first hour or so was all pretty good, with signing telegram roller girls, freelance heating engineers, and red boiler suited Central Services personnel all running around and interacting with the (huge) number of guests (or employees as we were encouraged to think of ourselves) milling about the six or seven floors that were open to us.

The problems started when after an obscure announcement telling us to follow the screens and not our dreams, we tried to find out where the screens were and where the film was being shown. The be-costumed people we asked were either evasive or just plain idiotic and as our frustration grew we were directed to the lifts to get even more frustrated by being taken to floors where only a couple of tiny televisions were showing a DVD of the film…

So we bought more drinks at extortionate prices from bars with massive queues and not enough staff, to calm us down and continued to look for the feature presentation. We met more and more angry and frustrated people as we traipsed from floor to floor, looking for any sign of the film. We found art installations (on big projector screens please note), freeform dancing and performance art and small monitors showing the film but with the sound turned down (although you could hear the soundtrack in the stair towers bizarrely enough, but that was on the other side of two fire doors).

Eventually (after an altercation of which I’m not proud) we were told that the film would be projected onto the outside of the building in a courtyard area, sometime after about 9 o’clock when it got dark. It would only start from where the film was up to at that time however (it started at 8.00pm) and we could only watch it through the office windows, which were too high off the floor when sat down, as you can imagine from this screen grab of the building below…

Good HQ

It did occur to me that this was all part of the experience. Brazil is all about petty bureaucracy and small mindedness after all, and maybe the actors were under instruction to make life as difficult as they could for us. All of which would have been OK, if we’d then seen the film as a reward.

Sadly though, I can’t think of this as anything other than a total con. Effectively it cost us £43 each for a few hours membership into a very expensive drinking club in less than salubrious surroundings, miles away from home in Croydon, with some side shows to dull our senses. About 25 of us went last night for a friends 40th Birthday, and all of us left either angry, disappointed or both, quite rightly believing that our collective £1000 could have been far better spent on almost anything else we could think of. Indeed the birthday boy and his wife were going to look into getting a refund, so ripped off did they feel…

It’s all such a shame really as it’s undoubtedly a good idea, and could work really well. We met some people who saw Prometheus and said it was the best thing they’d ever done (although they did get to see the whole film on a big screen)

We may have just hit a bad night or a ridiculous and over ambitious production, but I for one will not be duped again…

The Great Pacific Trash Vortex…

January 21, 2013 4 comments

Something definitely in the” Things I don’t like…” category today.

I’m ashamed to admit that I only recently became aware of The Great Pacific Trash Vortex (or Garbage Patch), an area of floating rubbish whose size is difficult to assess, but is estimated to be at least 250,000 square miles (i.e. the size of Texas),  possibly up to as much as a mind numbing 6 million square miles (or roughly 1/10th of the entire pacific Ocean) and which contains an estimated 3.5 million tons of rubbish, reaching a depth of between 10 and 30 meters below the surface.

Oceanic_gyresThere are five of these huge floating rubbish tips, one in each of the ocean gyres, a natural phenomenon connected to the Coriolis effect and the oceans currents, where the sea forms a huge slowly circulating body of water that despite its circular motion, remains relatively static in terms of where it is. Although the Pacific rubbish tip is the largest of these accumulations, between all five of them, it’s estimated that they might cover upwards of 30% of the surface of the sea (although that can’t possibly be right can it?)

Approximately 90% of all the rubbish in the seas is plastic based. Not as you may think as recognisable bottles and bags etc. but broken down into billions and billions of tiny granules that are not only undetectable by planes and satellites, but are often invisible to the human eye. Which explains why these huge areas of rubbish weren’t much known about until the late 90’s, especially after being discovered and publicised by the American yachtsman Charles J. Moore.

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Some facts that we would all do well to remember :

  • Plastic never totally biodegrades. It breaks down into ever smaller pieces through photodegradation, losing colour and form along the way, until the polymers become almost microscopic and small enough to be ingested by organism’s like plankton and krill at the bottom of the food chain…
  • A single 1 litre plastic drinks bottle will break down into enough fragments to put one on every mile of every beach on the planet.
  • More than 60% of the plastic in the sea is 1mm or smaller.
  • 70% of all plastic that ends up in the sea sinks to the bottom.
  • It is estimated that over 1 million sea birds and upwards of 100,000 marine mammals and turtles die each year from deaths related to plastics, usually ingestion or entanglement.
  • Apart from any that has been burnt, every bit of plastic that has ever been produced since its invention about 120 years or so ago, still exists.

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The great pacific garbage patch

To end on a more positive note (although I accept that it  won’t make the impending disaster go away), I came across this interesting architectural proposal that suggests a way to deal with these floating continents of waste.

Designed by three young architects from Serbia, and entitled Lady Landfill (although I can’t work out why) it was an entry into a 2011 Skyscraper competition and received an honorable mention.

To radically summarise the key aspects of the scheme, these huge, self-sufficient systems are floated to the areas where the rubbish accumulates whereupon they set to work vacuuming it out of the sea. The islands can move around to enable all areas to be covered, and as the facility fills up with rubbish, any additional weight is offset by pumping air into and out of the structure to keep the habitation zone at the top at the correct height above the water. All the rubbish that is collected is then transformed into energy via a number of on board and inbuilt methods (including conversion into plasma)…

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I don’t know much about plasma, but I’m guessing that some of the technologies in the proposal are not currently practical, not least building the Eiffel Tower sized islands in the first place. Still it’s a very neat idea, elegantly presented and very worthy of recognition.

It’s also a big step in the right direction in terms of raising awareness of this fundamentally critical issue, one which we should all do our best to address, no matter how small the gesture feels…

RECYCLE OR DIE (as my good friend Waitey is always telling me)

There’s more here and here if you’re interested…

Boris the Chump…

August 5, 2012 3 comments

There is nothing more satisfying than a smug git making an idiot of himself…

This is a man who, apart from some surprisingly ugly buses, has done absolutely nothing for London and yet takes all the credit for everything. All his “triumphs” were inherited from Ken Livingston: the bikes, the congestion charge, increased Police numbers, the Olympics…

I for one will be very interested to look back and assess his achievements over the next four years.. My fear is that, other than some shameless self promotion and blatant manoeuvring for the Tory Leadership, our beloved Mayor will leave nothing more tangible from his eight years in charge of the worlds greatest city, than photos like this…

Boris Johnson is a buffoon (he can’t even ride a zip line) and the sooner we “Londoners” realise that we’ve been had, the better…

Mudchute Park and Farm to close forever. “It’s H&S gone mad… again” (says Daily Mail reader Joe Blogs, 15)

March 24, 2012 Leave a comment

After my post last week about the wonders at the heart of the Isle of Dogs, I was very saddened to read this article in last Tuesday’s edition of The Evening Standard…

Its a well argued piece by Simon Jenkins and is about the distinct possibility that Mudchute Park and Farm will no longer be allowed to let its animals loose in the meadow due to the possibility of e-coli in their poo. This is of course as decreed by that favourite scourge of common sense, The Man from The Health and Safety Executive…

I must say after taking the photos week before last, I was definitely wondering where all the sheep had gone this week, and this was not the answer I was expecting.

It will be very sad indeed if the sheeps will no longer be allowed to roam about. I liked having them about.

And at the risk of over doing the whole Daily Mail parody thing, it would be nice if, as grown ups, we could be allowed to take some responsibility for our own lives. I mean it’s not a difficult concept to grasp; you eat poo, you get sick… how hard can it be….

I will be following this story and fingers crossed that common sense and cheap grass cutting triumphs over petty bureaucracy and small mindedness…

The Value of Beauty…

December 20, 2011 1 comment

Sadly a fourth “Things I DON’T like…” post.

To the wankers who stole the wonderful Barbara Hepworth sculpture, Two Forms (Divided Circle) from Dulwich Park…

I hope one day a random stranger destroys something that you value and transforms it into scrap…

 

 

 

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